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NHTSA to review autonomous vehicle regulations

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says in a report released on Oct. 27 that it is looking for ways to reduce the regulatory hurdles faced by companies developing self-driving cars. Road safety groups believe that fully autonomous vehicles could virtually eliminate road deaths in West Virginia and around the country and several federal agencies, including NHTSA, launched a Road to Zero campaign in October 2016 that hopes to reach this milestone within 30 years.

The NHTSA says that the issue of autonomopus vehicle regulations should be treated with urgency because the years that it could take to implement any needed rule changes could thwart the development of potentially life-saving technology. The agency says that it is particularly interested in learning about any rules that could stymie the development of fully autonomous vehicles that would require no driver input at all.

Lawmakers in the nation's capital are also taking the matter seriously, and a Senate Commerce Committee passed a bill in September that would allow the NHTSA to issue regulatory exemptions to autonomous vehicle developers and calls for permanent rules to be established within a decade. Auto manufacturers must currently meet more than 70 safety standards that experts say often stifle innovation because they were written with human drivers in mind.

The autonomous vehicle systems currently available monitor road and traffic conditions constantly, and this information may be extremely useful to car accident investigators and personal injury attorneys. Data about what happened in the seconds before a collision can reveal whether or not speed limits were being observed and what kind of evasive action was taken by the driver or drivers involved, and this can be used by attorneys to establish negligent behavior in lawsuits filed on behalf of injured victims.

Source: The National Highway Traffic-Safety Administration, "U.S. DOT, National Safety Council Launch 'Road to Zero' Coalition to End Roadway Fatalities", Oct. 3, 2016

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